Taliban murder boy, 13, for 'spying'

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Taliban insurgents have shot dead a 70-year-old woman and her 13-year-old grandson a few miles north of a British base in Helmand province, saying they were spies for the government.

Officials in Kabul said that after the killings, reported to have taken place on Monday, the bodies were left hanging from a tree as a warning to local villagers.

"They were shot and then their bodies were hanged from a tree," said Haji Mohaiuddin, a spokesman for the governor of Helmand. "The son-in-law of the old woman works as a policeman, but there is no other connection to the government."

President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack. He said that it was " against the historical and cultural values of Muslims".

The attack occurred in a village in the Musa Qala district, which has a British garrison. Four British soldiers have been killed in the area in the past 10 days.

On Monday, the Ministry of Defence said a major operation had taken place in Musa Qala to reclaim it from guerrillas trying "to rule local villages with fear and intimidation". The MoD said: "The priority was to dominate Musa Qala and disrupt enemy forces in order to return stability. This was overwhelmingly achieved."

* A UN report will probably show that more opium has been grown in Afghanistan this year than last, despite an aggressive anti-drugs policy. The Foreign minister, Kim Howells, said: "Much of the increase is due to a substantial increase in planting in Helmand, and other southern provinces. This is worrying, but it reflects the difficult security situation and limited law enforcement capability."